This post will introduce potential poultry farmers to some of the basics on how to start a poultry business/ farm. From understanding what type of chicken breeds would work best for their climate and terrain, all the way down to where they should buy them from. We’ll cover everything there is to know about this exciting adventure!
This post is not only suited for starters, if you are already a poultry farmer, you can also read through. You will find tips on how to improve your existing poultry farm.
Why start a poultry business /farm?
There are many reasons why you should start a poultry business. Some are listed below;
- You can start on a small scale.
- It doesn’t require a lot of startup capital.
- There is a ready market for chicken and its products.
- There are adequate resources and expertise in this field.
- Chicken rearing doesn’t require a lot of skill to do
- Chicken rearing doesn’t require a lot of land to carry out.
How to start a poultry business.
Write a business plan.
A business plan is very important in every business but most importantly in a poultry farm. You specifically need to;
Choose a production strategy.
As we shall discuss, there are many types of poultry, in the many types, there are subtypes too. You need to strategically look into this. What type specifically are you going to deal in. We shall look at this in this post but at a later stage. What factors should you consider when choosing a poultry type to deal in?
An example of a production strategy that I use is rearing broilers up to 4 weeks and selling them off.
Other strategies are;
- Yours can be, buying 4-week old broilers, rearing them, and selling them at a higher price.
- Rearing layers for eggs
- Raising kuroilers for eggs or meat. You need to come up with a good profitable one.
There are many more strategies. You just have to think about something that works Marvels for you.
Other key elements of the poultry farming business plan are;
Market analysis is key and you need to take it seriously. It will show you areas of high demand, those without supply, and help you to come up with a sales mechanism and strategy.
You need to get a method through which you’ll be selling your chicken. Will you be supplying hotels and restaurants, hawking them and their products or otherwise?
We have a full post about How to write/ Come up with a business plan. It can guide you through the whole process.
Choose a breed of poultry.
There are many breeds of chicken currently being reared in Uganda. As a starter, you need to choose a breed based on your strategy and the amount of money you have.
Some of the breeds of chicken in Uganda.
These are breeds of chicken that are not native to Uganda. These are in specialties. That is for meat, eggs, and multipurpose chicken.
- Broilers ( Meat breed).
These are for meat. They are usually white and can fatten to a weight of up to 6 kg live weight at maturity. A good business idea is to rear these up to an age of 4 weeks and dead weight of 1kg.
These are egg-laying poultry birds raised mainly for the commercial production of eggs. There are many layer breeds in Uganda but all are under the brown category. These include the Bovans, ISA, and Hisex. The commonest are the ISA breed.
Kuroiler chickens are the ones with indigenous or local traits but lay more eggs and mature faster in a period of up to 10 weeks to weigh up to 4 kg live weight. These mature faster than the locals and lay more eggs than the locals.
Local ( indigenous) breed.
These are the ones that originate here in Uganda. They are not good for commercial purposes as they take longer to grow though they are more resistant to diseases. Rearing local chicken is a good business option for those that don’t have good startup capital. These are more resistant to pests, diseases, weather and can do well on a free-range system.
All these breeds of chicken are good though you should consider your strategy and available capital before choosing which one to take on.
Factors to consider when choosing a breed to deal in.
Your target market demands determine what poultry you should rear. The target market that needs meat requires raising broilers and kuroilers. If you are targeting a market that is interested in eggs, then layers are your choice.
Revenue is another factor you need to consider before choosing the breed. Layers require a lot of capital to raise while kuroilers and broilers require less.
If you are just about money, then you can look out for what matches your revenue.
Available rearing space and location.
Generally, Kuroilers require a lot of space as they can also be released in the free range for exercise. Layers don’t like noise, usually on noisy days, and in noisy environments, they don’t lay. Meanwhile, broilers require less space and need to be in places with a ready market. Your location can dictate what breed you can take on.
Next on the start-up process is raising capital. At this stage, You have a clear poultry farm plan and you know what it will take to come up with a decent farm.
What does it cost to start a poultry farm?
The cost to start a poultry farm varies from one breed to another due to the raising period, feeding, methods of raising, and more of the sort.
Layers require a lot of capital and carry the benefits of large-scale production. A decent layers poultry farm can take up to 15 million Uganda shillings.
Kuroilers don’t require that much and can cost up to 5 million shillings to come up with a decent farm.
Broilers require the least start-up capital. The cost of raising broilers to 4 weeks of age and 1kg of weight is 7500 Uganda shillings. You can multiply to see how many you Money can raise. The assumption of this is that there is no fixed cost such as the mother structure.
Now that you have a clear estimate of the capital required, it’s time we devise means of raising capital for your poultry farm.
There are no alien ways to raise capital, it’s still through bank loans, savings, partnerships, and more of the sort.
We have a full blog post about How to raise capital for your side business. It’s can be of help.
Choose a poultry farm location.
Choosing a location for your poultry farm should be based on the breeds you’ve chosen as discussed above. That’s if you have multiple locations. If you have one location, then the variable is the breed.
Ideally, a good place for poultry farming should be;
There is a need for space to store manure, a slaughter place, and more of the sort.
- Accessible especially to customers.
In case you are around town, some customers especially retailers can come over to buy both chicken and their products.
- In a quiet place.
Noise causes stress for the birds, it causes layers to miss laying some days, it stresses broilers and slows the fattening process. Either way, a noisy place isn’t ideal for poultry farming.
Raise shelter for your Birds.
The shelter is necessary for any method of raising poultry be it free range. That’s the mother house.
Common methods of raising poultry.
This is the traditional method of rearing chicken. The farmer allows the chicken to roam freely on the farm in search of food and provides water. Later shelter is provided for safety in the night. This method is not ideal as chicken is overworked looking for food, exposed to bad weather, diseases, and pests.
Deep litter system.
This is a modern method of rearing chicken. They are kept indoors all the time. The structures are large and allow free movement of the chicken. Food and water are provided for the chicken in the structure. This is my favorite and it’s what I also use. It’s cost-effective and provides all that is required.
This is also a modern method of rearing chicken. Chicken is kept in its cages in this method, food and water are kept at the front of each cage. This method is commonly used for layers. The main shortcoming is the additional cost of purchasing cages. Cages are usually prefabricated and expensive.
The shelter you raise shall be based on the system you want to use.
Purchase Equipment and feeds.
Next will be a one-time equipment fee. The equipment you’ll buy include;
These are for providing feeds to birds. Feeders may not be used for day-old chicks as we shall see later. Use chick feeders of 0.5m lengths for every 20 chicks. Poultry should use small feeders at 1weeks age, medium at two weeks’ age, and large for 1month + old poultry.
These are for providing poultry with water. Drinkers that chicks can reach but not fall into are appropriate to avoid drowning. Provide one drinker for every 50 chicks.
Cages ( if you are using the battery cage system).
If you plan on starting the project on a large scale, then a vehicle is important to help you transport feeds, manure, and products.
You’ll also need a heating system. These can be artificial heat sources such as infrared bulbs, heat lamps, electric and gas hovers, a stove, hot water radiators, and clay pots( locally). If you want to look after local chicken, then this shouldn’t worry you as the mother hens do all the work though that shall be on a very small scale.
Depending on the type of heat source being used, allow 1,000 chicks per hover or 200 chicks per infrared bulb or clay pot. If the temperature is right, chicks are evenly distributed throughout the brooder area which is a sign of comfort. If the temperature is low, chicks tend to cluster under or around the heat source. If the temperature is high, chicks move away from the heat source towards the brooder walls.
Feeding is an important aspect of a poultry farm. 70% of the cost goes into feeding and the success of your project is based on how well you feed the birds.
On this note, you must purchase the feeds from genuine producers that I’ll recommend at a later stage.
Tips to reduce feeding costs.
As I’ve mentioned before, 70% cost of poultry is feeding. It’s therefore important to try and optimize feeding costs to maximize profits.
Here are the tips to reduce feeding costs:
- Buy quality feeds.
These get the work done perfectly and on time to save you further expenses
- Stock feeds when the price is still low.
This specifically applies to maize.
These are waste absorbent materials that poultry lie and step onto during their stay in the brooding house. Good litter should;
- Have good waste absorbent capabilities
- Should be cheap and readily available.
- Shouldn’t be dusty as this may cause cough in the poultry.
- Wet litter should be immediately removed as it forms a conducive environment for coccidiosis.
The most ideal litter that I also use is rice husks as it meets all the above.
Poultry farming especially (exotics) is a very sensitive business. For this reason, I advise you to hire experienced staff. Starting small to minimize losses if any is always a good option as it also helps you to test your business strategy. You’ll need;
- Manual laborers
- Accounting and managing staff( especially on a large scale)
- A part-time or full-time veterinary personnel ( based on your scale of operation)
- Driver ( of you are operating on a large scale)
If you are operating on a small scale, you don’t need all these. You can work on the poultry farm yourself or hire external experienced persons only for the start.
This is another important element of the poultry farm. Now that you have everything set, it’s the stage to bring in the baby chicks. You’ll have to purchase the chicks from any reputable company that provides chicks in your area. If you don’t have any in your area, then you’ll have to move to the capital and you’ll find many of these. This is on rare occasions. In case you plan to produce very large numbers >5000, incubating and hatching these chicks in your hatchery would be a better option.
Different sources of chicks in Uganda.
Those are the common chick sources on the Ugandan market.
Note; Chicks from different sources are of different genetic nature and exhibit different growth and disease resistance capabilities. Ensure to get chicks from genuine reputable sources, preferably the one I have mentioned above.
Caring for Poultry.
This is another important aspect of the poultry business. A good poultry breed that is not cared for the right way is worth nothing. If you don’t care for the poultry well, they’ll not grow and fatten fast, they’ll fall sick and die, they’ll not lay. Whichever targets you have will fail if you don’t care for the poultry well. This is how serious it is.
Providing your chicks with high-quality feeds is very important as I mentioned earlier. Preferably from their respective sources. i.e. all the chick sources have feeds. It’s better to buy feeds where you bought the chicks.
Follow the bird feeding schedule that can be got from your respective source of the chicks that I mentioned before. This clarifies the type of feed i.e. starter, grower or finisher to be given to the birds at a given age.
In case you’ve developed your mix proportion for mixing feeds, ensure the feeds contain coccidiostat to help control coccidiosis and antioxidants for broiler starters.
Provide chicks with abundant clean drinking water in clean drinkers. Add vitamins to boost the bird’s health or boosters into the drinking water.
Brooder house should be isolated with restricted access to people to help reduce disease outbreaks. A footbath with a disinfectant at the entrance is sufficient to control some poultry diseases. Ideally, having specific shoes or boots that everyone that enters the poultry house uses is better.
Windows to the brooder house should be covered with mesh to prevent wild birds from entering. Wild birds can cause disease outbreaks in poultry.
Litter should be changed immediately if wet. Further, it should also be changed at the appropriate time( when filled with dropping).
Feeders should be cleaned before adding more feeds to prevent birds from eating dirt. This can cause digestive disorders.
Just like other animals, poultry is vaccinated to prevent diseases. It’s usually an oral vaccine administered with a drop in the eye.
A combined vaccine of Newcastle Disease (NCD) and Infectious Bronchitis should be done on the first and third week. Gumboro (IBD) should be administered in the second and the fourth week.
All second vaccination doses are booster doses. On vaccination days, chicks don’t receive water with any Groth booster apart from Anti-stress or glucose.
Birds are not vaccinated in case they are sick. If they are sick, the dosage is shifted to the next week.
These vaccines can be got from veterinary supply shops in any area.
Caring for day-old chicks.
This is the first test in poultry farming. Perhaps the hardest. Caring for day-old chicks is demanding and you need extra care at this stage. I’ll break down this process into steps that you should closely follow for success.
Transportation of the chicks from the hatchery.
Before transportation, chicks should be examined and checked at the hatchery or office of the hatchery. They should be dry clean with bright eyes. They should further be active and alert and make noise.
They should be able to sit and stand when placed on their backs.
If the chicks meet these conditions, then they should be transported in an aerated vehicle to their required destination. Chicks should not be transported in vehicle boots.
Preparation of brooding house.
Before arrivals of chicks is the preparation of brooding house.
Clean and disinfect the brooding house and all equipment with a good disinfectant at least one week before the arrival of chicks. I recommend Naro cleanse as a disinfectant simply because,
- It’s not toxic to poultry and the farmer.
- It does the work effectively.
- It has a residual effect of 1 week.
- Its cost is also friendly.
Disinfection should be done at least two times.
Choose litter material that helps in temperature regulation of the poultry house and is easy to manage. Litter should not be dusty. Rice husks or coffee husks can do the work.
A good litter thickness of at least 1 inch should be spread on the brooder floor as a cushion for chicks.
The brooding house size can be reduced to floor spacing of 25 chicks per square meter for layers and 20 chicks per square meter for broilers to prevent overcrowding and the requirement of more heating equipment.
For the first week, it is good practice to put feeds on spread papers (cement bangs or newspaper) to help chicks easily find feeds. These should be changed as soon as they are messed with droppings.
Material for this purposed should not be polythene. They should easily absorb the droppings.
Six hours before the arrival of chicks on the farm, the artificial heat source should be turned on to preheat the brooder house.
Ensure the brooder is corner-free to avoid piling of chicks in corners which can lead to suffocation and death.
A drinker per 5O chicks should be provided for easy access. The drinker size should match the chicks size and drinkers should be put at a level to avoid chicks drowning in water.
Chicks should only be given water with an antistress agent or glucose for the first two hours then feeds there after.
Ensure to feed the chicks as recommended, and always provide them with clean sufficient water, and do not forget the vaccination days.
Propper management of chicks in the first four weeks is the most important part of poultry farming. Your success shall all depend on this so try to put in your best and do it well.
Market Your Business.
This is another important aspect of the poultry business. It’s wise to have a ready market before your chicken maturity especially kuroilers and broilers. The more days ready chicken spends on your farm, the more losses you are making as you continuously incur feeding costs.
How to market your business and make sales.
- Reach out to possible customers before your chicken gets ready.
Possible customers include;
- Hotels and restaurants
- Roadside roasters
- Retail sales
- Supermarkets and butchers.
- Transport the chicken or eggs to high-demand areas. (Look for the market in other localities)
- Use media to market the products especially if you are operating on a large scale.
Tips to make your venture successful and profitable.
Never compromise on the quality of feeds to cut costs. This shall delay the maturity of chicks and you find yourself incurring more feeding costs. It can also compromise the health of your poultry.
Biosecurity is very important. Keep a water bath at the entrance of your brooding house. Naro clense is a good disinfectant to use for this.
Have Ready market before the birds get ready. This can save you extra feeding costs.
Follow all the vaccination dates as indicated. Never vaccinate sick birds.
Always call veterinary personnel to visit your farm and check on the health of your birds.
Watch out for some of the signs of sick birds.
- Dosing birds
- Coughing birds
- Diahhorrea and droppings with bloodstains.
For more, you can contact your veterinarian.
A lot has been discussed in this article. I hope you’ve picked something. Poultry is a good business that I also do myself. Whether you have little money or space, there is no excuse for failing to give poultry farming a try especially if you are unemployed.
Give it a try today and you’ll share your success story. In case you need more information about poultry farming, we are ready and willing to help. Contact us. If you feel this article has helped you, feel free to comment or add something to it in the comment box below.